Paranoid ideas: how to deal with mistrust

Almost all of us have met people who tend to be suspicious of others, who attribute bad intentions to other people’s comments or actions, and who generally suspect that behind the setbacks they suffer are “dark hands” conspired to. make them fail.

To be protagonists and victims of persecutions, injustices or misfortunes ordered by others … These types of beliefs form what is called paranoid ideation., Force prevalent among humans. No wonder, because it is a defense mechanism that can even be adaptive in certain situations. However, this becomes a problem when this style of thinking shifts to more serious manifestations, with enough distortion of reality to cause great distress or psychological disorder (shifting from paranoid ideation to delusional thought).

    What is paranoid ideation?

    It is important not to confuse paranoid thoughts with paranoid personality disorder; not only by the different intensity of the symptoms, because in addition it is not the unique pathological picture in which these mental ruminations appear: can be found in schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or schizotypal disorder. It is also common for substance use to promote paranoid thoughts.

    Some of the main factors influencing the development of paranoid attitudes are said to be strong social anxiety and insecure affection style (Martin, 2001), father figures of aloof and avoidant affection, or excessive external criticism (Carvalho, 2018 ), a threat-based social mentality (Macbeth, 2008), among others, and its incidence is more pronounced among the elderly (Chaudhary and Rabheru, 2009). All of these cases are relatively common, so it is easy for us to cope in our daily life with relatives, friends, acquaintances or colleagues (one of the most common places to develop it, for that matter) with varying degrees of paranoid ideation.

      What to do?

      Whether it is a profile subject to suspicion or people with conspiracy convictions (there is a relationship between paranoia and belief in conspiracy theories (Darwin, 2011)), it is not. easy to approach. he tended to distrust us.

      The temptation to argue or disprove a belief, or to engage in an exchange of defensive behaviors and both end up angry is very strong, so knowing how to act in a relationship with a person at the same time is particularly important. paranoid traits.

      1. Do not invalidate the perception of the person

      As absurd as their beliefs may seem to us, they are always built on a real perceived fact that is central to them. When we openly reject someone’s inner experience, we generate hostility (“but man, Paco, how are you going to be afraid of such a little spider?”, Or any other disqualification of emotions or feelings. feelings that come to mind), and so on the other will be put on the defensive.

      We need to be well aware that it is not just a matter of ‘following them’, but of better understanding what cognitive process and what actual situation led them to these disproportionate conclusions in order to maintain an emotionally and socially productive conversation. .

      2. Look for other explanations together

      If we followed the first point, we will be able to present alternative explanations or arguments more adjusted to reality and which are plausible for someone with paranoid ideation.

      Here we are going to have to overcome their tendency to jump to conclusions (JTC or Jumping to conclusions) before we gather enough information or evidence.

      Freeman has found that people with paranoid thoughts are more than twice as likely to rush into a lawsuit than others (Freeman, 2008). This does not mean that they are not able to re-decide or change their conclusions in the face of more evidence, but it is more complicated for them to do so.

      Anyway, subclinical paranoid ideation is not an intellectual obstacleThey can reason as well as anyone; only they prefer conspiratorial explanations.

      3. Not to participate in competitions to be right

      This point, valid for communicative exchange with anyone, is more important in these specific cases. It’s tempting to argue with someone who claims the police are following him, however we won’t get much by confronting it with our arguments against: Basically, it’s a competition of wills and we will find that we have no more proof than our own conviction that ours is true.

      From this position it is very difficult to convince someone who is also capable of making very “solid” explanations. It is essential to give up the struggle for reason, Which can only generate more mistrust.

      4. Avoid being condescending

      A paranoid delirium it does not involve any type of cognitive impairment; the person can be as intelligent or smarter than us, even if they believe that the aliens built the pyramids and live incognito among humans. In fact, one can be convinced of it and lead a normal, adapted and happy life. Contempt or condescension as if you have brain damage will only bring you deeper into distance and mutual misunderstanding.

      5. Validate the emotions underlying beliefs

      Paranoid Ideation is part of a central limiting belief: that others are a potential threat, And you can’t trust even the closest. For this reason, the favorite emotion of people with this problem is fear, from which they actively defend themselves, so that external observers see the restlessness, anger and confrontation, and it is easy to overlook the back. – emotional level of the question or to confuse it. he angry.

      On the other side of the coin, individuals with paranoid ideas usually don’t realize that this defense generates rejection in others … that by walking away, they confirm their suspicions. Understand that it is fear that activates their responses, not that we fall in love with them, so that we can act with confidence, understanding and compassion. Like everyone else, they need the contact and warmth of other human beings, despite the fear that contact produces in them.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Carvalho C., Motta C., Pinto-Gouveia J. and Peixoto E. (2018). Psychosocial roots of paranoid ideation: the role of children’s experiences, social comparison, submission and shame. Clinical psychotherapy. 2018; 1-12. Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
      • Chaudhary M. and Rabheru K. (2009). Paranoid symptoms in elderly patients. RET, Journal of Addictions. NO. 56-2009
      • Darwin H., Neave N. and Homes J. (2011). Belief in conspiracy theories. The role of paranormal belief, paranoid ideation, and schizotyping. Personality and individual differences 50 (2011) 1289-1293. Ed: Elsevier Ltd.
      • Freeman D., Pugh K. and Garety P. (2008). Go to paranoid conclusions and ideas in the general population. Schizophrenia Research 102 (2008) 254-260. Publisher: Elsevier BV
      • MacBeth A., Schwannauer M. and Gumley A. (2008). Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice (2008), 81, 79-93. Ed: The British Psychological Society.
      • Martin JA and Penn DL (2001). Brief report Social cognition and subclinical paranoid ideation. British Journal of Clinical Psychology (2001), 40, 261-265. Ed: The British Psychological Society.

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